Holy Home Video Release, Batman! It's Time to Relive the Mania of 1960s Batman.

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Batman 1966 Season 3 Warner Home Video DVD Critical Blast

Warner Bros. Entertainment
$39.98 SRP

Being a kid growing up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, you didn’t have the television world at your fingertips.  There were literally seven channels for me to watch until I was about ten years old.  During the week, the only kid-friendly shows were on in the early morning till maybe 9 o’clock then in the afternoon from say 3-6pm.  Oddly, a lot of the shows weren’t even cartoons.  Instead it was shows like GET SMART, THE BRADY BUNCH, and the Adam West BATMAN that helped keep me entertained.  

Like many people older than me, this series was our introduction to--I was going to say the Dark Knight but that’s just not apt--let’s say the Caped Crusader.  The show had set off a cultural phenomenon called Batmania when it originally aired.  By the time I was watching, the “mania” had died down but West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin interpretations were institutions that had left an indelible impression on pop culture.

It’s funny, because as much as the Adam West version of BATMAN was a part of my youth, it mostly disappeared by the mid-80s.  This was actually a good thing because, as the ‘80s progressed, Frank Miller’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS began to change the cultural benchmark for Batman.  By the close of the ‘80s, a new mania launched surrounding the Michael Keaton film BATMAN, which also starred a little known character actor by the name of Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker.  Of course, I jest.  Nicholson and even Keaton brought A-list talent to the superhero movie, something that had only happened prior with the SUPERMAN films.  For a short time, I recall the series airing on our local channel WPIX 11 in late 1989 and early 1990, but then it was gone again.

I know there were cable airings in the interim but the series largely remained gone from the cultural landscape.  Even in the early ‘00s, as every television series that had previously haunted the earth got a second life on DVD, there was no return of the West/Ward Caped Crusaders.  It all came down to the original contracts which saw Warner Bros. with ownership of the characters, 20th Century Fox owning the series, and producer WIlliam Dozier with an ownership stake too.  The morass was finally figured out a couple of years ago and the DVDs are finally here.

I’m reviewing SEASON 3, the latest, and final release.  The DVD features all 26-episodes spread over four discs.  A lot of people say the show didn’t age well over the course of its three seasons.  In many ways that’s a pretty fair assessment.  The series had definitely grown a bit goofier since it’s inception, but really, that's just like saying Adam Sandler is more goofy than Kevin James.  Neither actor is Shakespeare, and season one of BATMAN wasn't exactly Hamlet.  And, that’s okay!  So, I find the argument that it got TOO silly kind of ridiculous.  

The other big negative was the loss of the two-part episodes that brought us the immortal “Tune in tomorrow.  Same Bat Time.  Same Bat Channel.”  You see, the show was such a phenom that in season one and two it was airing twice a week!  That was no more in season three.  It's disappointing that the plots are mostly single episodes, but it doesn't exactly kill the show either.

The biggest positive change was the addition of Yvonne Craig, who passed in 2015, as Batgirl.  Craig was a beauty and a really fun addition to the cast.  Her character added quite a bit of energy to the series.  Her relationship in costume to Batman and Robin was a lot of fun, and there was also the character’s interplay as Barbara Gordon with her dad, Commissioner Gordon.  I feel that even though the series grew a bit more silly, the addition of Batgirl more than makes up for it.

There aren’t any extras whatsoever on the standard DVD, which is a huge disappointment.  Thankfully that's at least partially made up by film transfers that are utterly gorgeous.  Every frame is a pristine window into the colorful, off kilter world, of the psychedelic sixties.  So, the lack of extras is definitely made up for by the presentation.

BATMAN is not for everyone, that’s for sure.  Most fans want dark, dirty, and overly gritty these days.  This definitely isn’t the series for you.  if you want morose Batman there’s about a million different choices that you can make.  If you’re like me, and you grew up on this version of BATMAN, it’s aged pretty well.  I don’t think it’s a binge-worthy type of show, but it’s sure fun to go back in the time machine and experience these tales one more time.

3.5 / 5.0